Friday, July 29, 2011

I'll have extra cheese with my harangue

As political theater it would be hard to top the goings-on at the Capitol yesterday. I had to laugh out loud at this recap of House Speaker John Boehner's attempt to round up votes for his debt ceiling plan. As reported by Jennifer Steinhauer and Robert Pear of The New York Times:

After two hours of impassioned debate, the Capitol was braced for the grand finale of Speaker John A. Boehner’s days of strong-arming members on the most important vote of his Congressional career. Suddenly, with no warning and just minutes from a vote Thursday evening, the conversation on the House floor turned to naming post offices.

Thus began the great pizza seduction. One after another, recalcitrant Republicans were marched into Mr. Boehner’s office, where he begged, implored and, when that failed, berated them in a desperate effort to win support for his proposal to resolve the debt crisis.

Representative Kevin McCarthy, the House whip, bought a pile of pizzas, and asked those members who were against the bill to come on over for a slice, and some haranguing.

The speaker was forced to delay the vote on Thursday on his debt ceiling bill, when it became clear that his Republican members were not going to put him over the top. Some of those who left Mr. Boehner’s office looked stricken, but said they were unyielding. Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas emerged, saying he was “a bloody, beaten-down no.”

. . . .

The whipping effort had begun early in the week, and included pizza parties and one-on-one meetings with freshmen, cellphone calls and text messages from Representative Eric Cantor, the majority leader, and nice dinners over wine.

On Thursday, Mr. Boehner and his leadership team continued to press their case long before the bill was pulled, Mr. Boehner emerged from his ceremonial office to a sea of reporters, whom he met with a mild curse, grabbed members from the floor and marched them through the speaker’s lobby in full view of their colleagues for a talking-to back in his den.

When Representative Chuck Fleischmann, Republican of Tennessee, came out, he did not look as though he had been picnicking. . .

My sympathies are with Mr. Boehner, but if I had to choose my favorite politician right now it would be the independent senator from Vermont. His floor speech on Wednesday was so good I watched it twice. He is a voice in the wilderness. Alas, on other issues me and Bernie wouldn't agree, and so I still await my ideal candidate -- someone with the social conservatism of Tom Coburn and the economic populism of Bernie Sanders.

I have a feeling I'll be waiting a long time.

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